While Rev. Patrick Mahoney held a similar vigil outside the Capitol last year, the National Guard is still restricting access to the building’s grounds due to the January 6th riots.
A Christian minister has filed a lawsuit demanding access to the U.S. Capitol grounds for a Good Friday vigil, claiming that “free speech is in danger all across America.”
According to The New York Post, the lawsuit was filed earlier this week by Presbyterian Rev. Patrick Mahoney.
Mahoney, notes the Post, requested permission to host a vigil outside the U.S. Capitol. However, his application for a demonstration permit was denied, as the National Guard is continuing to restrict movement around and outside the building.
Now, Mahoney’s lawsuit asserts that the government’s “blanket denial” of his permit application violates his First Amendment rights.
“Plaintiff’s speech has been unconstitutionally deemed unworthy by the defendants,” says the lawsuit.
Mahoney claims that he has held similar events on or near the Capitol in the past.
Last year, for instance, Mahoney worked with the Capitol Police to ensure his Good Friday vigil complied with Washington D.C. and the federal government’s coronavirus guidelines. Unable to secure another permit for Good Friday—which is celebrated today, April 2nd—Mahoney took to the courts.
“These acts by Defendants have effectively created a no-speech zone in one of the most important public forums in the nation,” the lawsuit states.
Mahoney’s application was denied, in no small part, due to the January 6th riots in and around the United States Capitol. Thousands of Trump supporters rioted outside the building before breaching the Capitol. Once inside, they fought with law enforcement, looted congressional offices, and forced a joint session of Congress to evacuate.
The riot caused extensive property damage and numerous injuries; it left five people dead.
Since the riots, the National Guard has fenced off the area around the Capitol, and the government has been cautious about allowing more demonstrations to take place.
However, Mahoney asserts that the shock of the riots is what inspired him to hold another vigil, stating in the lawsuit that it is “for the express purpose of beseeching God’s healing from the divisiveness and anxiety lingering over our nation since the tragic events of January 6, 2020.”
Mahoney is being represented by the Center for American Liberty.
In a statement reprinted by Fox News, Center CEO Harmeet K. Dhillon said it is “unfathomable” that a minister would not be allowed to hold services outside the Capitol.
“Denying a minister and faithful parishioners the ability to pray outside the U.S. Capitol is unfathomable and violates First Amendment guarantees for traditional public forums,” Dhillon said.
Mahoney further maintains that he is a “peaceful man” who condemns the actions of the January 6 rioters.
He has since suggested that the threat to the Capitol is over, and that there is no compelling reason for the National Guard and federal government to continue restricting peaceful demonstrations.
“There is no specific threat to the Capitol Building, or surrounding grounds, that warrants, nor justifies, a continuation of the trampling of First Amendment activities on the grounds,” Mahoney’s lawsuit states.